CodeSwitching: Race and Identity in the Suburban Schoolhouse is a mashup of personal stories from African-American students, spanning two generations, who signed up for voluntary busing to attend better-resourced suburban schools. It explores shifting race relations in the suburban-urban axis, teen self-perception, and the role gender plays in fitting-in.
An educated citizenry is said to be the backbone of democracy and a crucial bulwark in an increasingly interconnected and hyper-competitive world. Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act helped weave equal education for all into our shared social contract, but this promise has yet to be fully realized. Students who shuttle between their inner-city neighborhoods and the white suburban schools, in pursuit of a better education, find themselves swapping elements of culture, language, and behavior to fit in with their suburban counterparts – Acting or speaking differently based on their surroundings, called code-switching.
For some students, “code-switching” has brought social and professional mobility. For others, the nature of code-switching has been harder to handle, causing anxiety and depression. The shuttling between Boston’s ethnic neighborhoods and predominantly white suburban schools has not been seamless, especially for girls. Too often, girls may face a heightened burden of both ostracization back home and feelings of isolation in their adopted schools. This had led to anxiety and depression and in extreme cases even attempted suicide.